The mangled taxi. Pic/MID-DAY Photo
The mangled taxi. Pic/MID-DAY Photo

Six passengers, who were among nine people packed into a single taxi, died on Saturday morning after the driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into the side walls of the Eastern Freeway. The Dongri Police, who have registered an offence against Mangru under IPC section 304 (Culpable homicide not amounting to murder), said he was trying to avoid a bus that was overtaking the taxi.

Dead: Ragini Verma; Rajashree and Harikesh Verma
Dead: Ragini Verma; Rajashree and Harikesh Verma

Those dead have been identified as Rajashree Verma (37), her husband Harikesh (45), her daughter Ragini (20), her sister Anara Verma (35), Anara’s daughter Asha (12) and Anara’s son Rajkumar (8). Anara’s husband Mangru (35) and Rajashree’s sons Vinay (21) and Ravi (14) sustained injuries.

Survived: Vinay Verma and his brother Ravi
Survived: Vinay Verma and his brother Ravi

On way to temple
Mangru, the taxi driver and a resident of Wadala, had invited the family of his wife Anara’s sister from Surat for Diwali. Both families decided to visit their family deity at the Mumbadevi temple in Zaveri Bazaar and on Saturday, they set out around 9 am.

Mangru was driving while Harikesh sat next to him with Ravi in his lap. Vinay was in the seat behind the driver with Rajkumar in his lap.

Rajashree was next to Vinay with Ragini in her lap and Anara next to her with Asha in her lap. "They took the Wadala ramp of the Freeway and when they reached the end of the Freeway, a bus overtook them, causing Mangru to lose control of the vehicle," said a police officer. The tyres of the taxi burst and it crashed into the side wall.

The impact was so severe that Rajashree and Anara were thrown out of the taxi. Harikesh died on the spot after his head hit the road. Passing motorists saw the accident and called the Wadibunder traffic police, who arrived and took all nine to Sir JJ Hospital. Rajashree, Anara and Harikesh were declared dead on arrival. Ragini, Rajkumar and Asha succumbed to injuries in casualty. Ravi and Vinay sustained minor injuries and are in stable condition. Mangru has fractured his right shoulder.

'Lost entire family'
Vinay, who suffered minor injuries, said, "I blacked out after hearing what had happened to my family. I cannot believe something like this has happened to us. My father had suggested that we book one more taxi, but everybody said no and decided to adjust in one taxi. This was our first ever trip to Mumbai and I have lost almost my entire family."

Vinay's younger brother Ravi is deeply traumatised and hasn’t said a word since the accident.

Speaking to mid-day from his hospital bed, Mangru said, "Normally, I ferry only four people in my taxi. But, on November 5, we were going as a family, so in a hurry we didn’t hire another taxi. This turned out to be our worst decision."

Transport expert A V Shenoy said, “Technically, when a taxi is overloaded, the driver tends to lose control of the vehicle. This accident is entirely the fault of the taxi driver. Whether he is ferrying relatives or passengers, he has to obey the law. In this case, it led to a terrible accident.”

Hospital speak
A senior doctor from JJ hospital said, “Three people were brought alive to our hospital. Of them, the driver is undergoing treatment for a fracture. The other two only required first aid.” Forensic experts were in the process of conducting autopsies on the deceased at the time of going to press. Despite repeated attempts, Dr TP Lahane, dean of JJ hospital could not be contacted.

Overloading problem
Taxi unions say there are a few routes in Mumbai where cabbies brazenly flout rules. Sources said most of these taxi drivers operate the share-a-cab service. “We have been telling the drivers not to overload their cabs. At some locations cabbies ferry as many as 10 people in a single cab,” said AL Quadros, taxi union leader. The union members said these routes were at Mahalaxmi-Haji Ali, Grant Road-Pydhonie, Antop Hill- Wadala and Antop Hill-Sion.